A few weeks ago, Tejas wrote about the Stealth Labs Speaker Backpack that’s currently on Indiegogo. At the time, I thought a backpack with a built-in speaker could be an interesting idea, but only if it were executed properly. After being sent a pre-release model to try out, I’ve decided that this backpack, for what it is, is nearly perfect.
The Stealth Labs Speaker Backpack measures approximately 19″ long by 14.5″ wide by 5.5″ deep (all measurements taken at widest points), and it weighs about 5 pounds; it is available in either space gray or stealth black. Included with the backpack are a large reusable velour storage bag and a user guide.
The exterior is composed of black, water-resistant nylon. The backpack has a sleek, geometric dome design that is both attractive and functional. The shell is stiff and supportive; this backpack will keep its shape and not do that weird ‘mushing in on one side’ thing that softer backpacks tend to do over time (especially when you usually only wear it with a single strap on a single shoulder).
One of the things that will help me either to love or make me dislike using a backpack is what kind of handle the manufacturer places on the top. This one does not disappoint; it is a thick, comfortable rubber grip attached to the nylon web strap; it is comfortable to grasp when you pick the bag up. The only branding on the backpack is the matte black Stealth Labs logo. It’s so low-key that it just looks like part of the design, which means it’s one of the best looking logos I’ve ever seen on any bag.
On the bottom of the backpack, there is a large rubber base with built-in speaker grilles covering two 5-watt speakers. The three curved borders surrounding the control panel protect it when the bag is set on its end. Stealth Labs mentions that while the backpack is water-resistant, the speaker is not waterproof, so you should “use caution when raining.” The bottom circle is the power switch and volume knob; you turn the speaker on by rotating the knob clockwise; within 10 seconds, a blue LED will start to flash as the speaker looks for a device to pair with or a device it was paired to before. The top circle doesn’t have a function.
When playing music, you’ll see a solid blue LED, and if the music isn’t playing, the blue LED will flash every 2 seconds. While charging, the LED will glow red; the LED will stop glowing once the backpack is fully charged. There is no way to check the remaining charge on the speaker’s battery, which feels like an oversight.
The adjustable and padded shoulder straps are ~3″ wide and ]1/2″ thick; they are comfortable when worn, even when the bag is fully loaded. Since this isn’t a huge bag that you’ll be completely overloading with clothing and gear, there’s no chest strap; I never use those, so I don’t mind the omission.
On the back bottom of the bag, there is a zippered compartment that measures approximately 4.5″ tall by 7″ (measured at the narrowest spot) that can hold your cellphone. Inside the pocket, there is a USB Type-A cable for charging the backpack as well as a combo Type-C and Lightning cable that can be used to charge your mobile phone while it’s in the pocket. I love this design; the phone is tucked away in a place that will be hard for thieves to access, yet it is very easy for the bag’s wearer to get into.
The dual zippers that open the main portion of the backpack are situated on the outer rim of the thickly padded rear side. This is a great theft-deterrent, as there are no zippers accessible for grabby hands anywhere on the backpack’s exterior when it is being worn.
Inside the backpack, there is a padded compartment for up to a 15″ laptop. In front of the laptop sleeve, there is an 8.5″ wide by 8.5″ deep compartment for a tablet; I have an old 2nd-gen iPad that fit perfectly in this pocket with its case. Lastly, there is a 5.5″ deep by 8.5″ wide zippered pocket for loose items. The large main compartment gives you plenty of room for a camera, a water bottle, a change of clothes, or a pair of shoes (assuming you aren’t trying to carry a huge pair of hiking boots or wear size 17 shoes). The backpack has 12L cargo space, which is more than enough room for basic everyday items. It might be a bit tight if you are used to a larger travel backpack, but for school or work use, it should work out well.
At the bottom of the backpack, there is a padded flap that lifts up to expose the cables plugged into the speaker. It bothered me that the battery for the speaker was only 5,000mAh, but with easy access to the cable that allows you to use the speaker’s battery for also charging your phone, I was able to unplug that and set a small 10,000mAh battery on top of the compartment which gave me much more flexibility for charging my mobile devices without taking away from the speaker’s battery — while still taking advantage of the in-pocket charging cable.
So all that’s left is to talk about the built-in speaker. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much, so when I found it to perform as well as it did, I was quite pleased. It’s not the speaker you’ll want to bust out for big backyard parties (which should be obvious, right?), and it’s not going to make an audiophile swoon, but it is more than adequate for sitting in a park and enjoying your favorite music with friends. The sound is very clear at lower to mid-level volumes; there is a bit of distortion the higher the volume, however. The bass is surprisingly decent, and the sound is just fine for what it is. Stealth Labs says you can expect 5 – 6 hours of battery life for the speaker; I got ~4.75 hours with the speaker on half volume; I suspect that the battery life will go down a bit more quickly the louder you play your music, and you can expect substantially less battery life if you are also using the speaker’s battery to charge your phone.
This speaker backpack seems like it would be insanely popular with students; it got admiring glances and an “ooh I like that!” from the middle school, high school, and college-age kids I showed it to. You don’t have to be a student to enjoy it, though — you just need to be someone who likes listening to music, that doesn’t want to worry about carrying a standalone speaker, and who wants better sound than your mobile device’s speaker could ever put out. The Stealth Labs Speaker Backpack is a well-built and well thought out backpack; I think it has an attractive design, and the addition of a speaker just makes it that much better.
The Stealth Labs Speaker Backpack starts at $129.99; it is available on Indiegogo with shipping slated for July.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Very well made with a sleek, geometric design; Theft deterrent phone pocket and hidden zippers; Well organized interior; Built-in speakers sound surprisingly decent; Speaker can play for up to 5 hours; Built-in phone charger for Android (USB Type-C) or iOS phones; Comfortable to wear with plenty of rear and shoulder strap padding; The built-in speaker doesn’t add a ton of weight
What Needs Improvement: Only a 5,000mAh battery — I would have preferred it be a minimum of 10,000mAh; No way to check the remaining charge on the speaker’s battery